NSTA National Conference, San Antonio

San Antonio or Bust

Since this conference will not occur until April, I shouldn’t write anything yet.  However, I can’t help myself.  My family hears more than they desire about education, FB friends really aren’t interested in future conferences, and my husband is traveling.  Therefore, I will enter here with the most enthusiasm sans all cap letters or exclamation points that I have registered, not just for the NSTA National Conference being held in San Antonio, BUT (okay a few caps) for a Professional Development Institute.  This means I leave a day early, as projects are looming for the semester, for an extra day to participate in a professional series “The Literacy and Inquiry Connection: Instruction that Scaffolds and and Enhances Scientific Thinking and Understanding.”  The title alone makes me feel like a child at eye level with the pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner, a trace of cinnamon – traipsing, teasing; yet it’s only 8 in the morning.  I am even more excited about this conference than I was the fall math conference (NCTM regional Dallas).  I’ve had April’s conference bookmarked for an entire year.  Now one can understand why I had to write about an experience I’ve not yet fulfilled.  Math conference, Kagan workshop, Science and Literacy – now I require a full literacy workshop to round out my early training.  I’ve attended a couple of TAIR conferences, with another arriving in February, but I’m wishing for the Stephanie Harvey of workshops.  She holds a summer session every year in  Colorado.  It’s in my future.  I did attend Harvey Daniel’s workshop at the TAIR conference at Baylor University.  He’s pretty amazing as well – I have his collaborative book with Stephanie Harvey.  It’s not been used so that really doesn’t say anything.  Since we went to Disney for Christmas, we won’t travel for Spring Break.  I’ll use this time to work ahead of schedule (hopefully) in order to not lose sanity from work hours lost due to this conference.  Science, Literacy, Teacher Lingo, and a hotel room to myself (this factor is equivalent to all others as a mom of four) = Visions of sugarplums dance in my head.

Kagan Workshop

Short Term Goals

As I prepare for interning this semester, I have a few ideas I’d like to try from my recent Kagan workshop.  Rally Coach is a guided practice structure to use where students monitor one another, providing support and reinforcement.  If student A makes a mistake, then student B gives a couple of specific tips before teaching the concept.  I would like to try this for math and reading for fluency.  Each student takes turns with active participation, while the other student coaches as needed.  In preparation for a lesson, I need to remember to consider what approach is needed to explain how to provide specific tips without giving the answer.  This appears to be the trickiest aspect of this structure.

The other structure I would like to try is “All Write Round Robin.”  Everyone writes all ideas/lists presented as students take turns around the table sharing thoughts.  The appeal here is that there is movement aligned with active listening.  Rather than passively sitting while waiting for a turn, students still have a job to perform requiring increased engagement.  I like the individual accountability here as well; there’s concrete evidence that each student has received all information.

Lastly, I wish to implement gambits.  This is the social protocol built into the structures: greetings, words of thanks/praise/acknowledgement, and polite comments of parting.  This was a huge “Aha” moment for me – the concept of intentionally incorporating social skills within a lesson beyond community building.  It is such a simple idea which makes it easily overlooked.  Given today’s social media, the importance of teaching verbal communication skills is increasingly important.  I have daughters who have sat next to a friend in the same room as they text one another, or worse, ignore one another while playing on individual gadgets.

The Workshop

This was an amazing experience.  Instructors, Sarah and Carol, were simply excellent.  Sarah sat down to show me resources within the book and online which may prove useful for college research/papers.  I definitely plan to attend further sessions.  The overall methodology can be used regardless of grade level or content.  The idea of Kagan structures is to use a cooperative format with the intention to maximize principles of “PIES”: positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction (as defined by Kagan).  Several of my professors have used these structures which led to my initial interest.  The Kagan leadership was faultless.  Check out kaganonline.com.  To date, I have attended Days 1 and 2.  My hope is to find a nearby workshop for Days 3 and 4 before I student teach in August.